Friday, July 01, 2011


You know why I can’t remember numbers? It could be because I can feel and taste music and colors. Or imaybe it is because I have never recovered numerical memory since I had viral meningitis. Maybe I hold my cell phone too close to my head. I am sure one of these excuses is the culprit. All are equally true.

One of my buddies is a postcard dude. Sends me great ones. From his travels or with funny pictures. They all just have a line or two. He could have emailed, texted, or tweeted any of them. But he is a postcard dude.

Most of the nooks in our home have one of his postcards propped in them by now. They are a testament to his retro cool style and his friendship. They are constant reminders of my failure as a postcard gal.

I buy the postcards. Sometimes I put his address on them. Other times I put a stamp on them waiting for the temporary dyslexia to ebb so I can recall his street address AND zip code. That’s nine numbers! Way too many for a quantitatively challenged color nibbler like myself.

The end result is that I have a lovely postcard collection and he has a few postcards all sent from the city we live in often in multiple batches on the same day. Somewhere in my home and/or office are dozens of unsent postcards just waiting for me to become a person who can write a message, remember some numbers, and stick a stamp all within 10 minutes.

Have you ever noticed that most of us just can’t manage to transform into what we would like to be when it is completely contrary to who we are?

Every wedding season’s bridal magazines touting the “perfect day” get me to thinking about how people try to change themselves and each other in their closest relationships and then wonder why their dream shatters. When we try to change ourselves for someone else beyond our natural abilities for change, we are left either failing because we overreached or soulless with the success of pretending to be what we are not.

I don’t mean this in a gloomy, “We’re all hopelessly stuck” way. I mean it in a, “Some of our traits are who we are supposed to be” way.

It has been 17 years since I began my road to ordained ministry. 11 years since my ordination. Almost 2 years since I left parish ministry. And now that I do not have to be what hundreds of people expect or need me to be I am back to being myself.

Ordinary me has not changed no matter how much I tried to snip away at her to make that clerical robe look more at home on my free-thinking frame...

Articulate in obscenities in a way unbecoming to a woman of the cloth. Fan of hops when my medicine allows it. Quick to tears and quicker to giggles. Closet looks like I robbed the sets of four very different theatrical productions. Like my fiction, my friends, and my politics on the non-conformist side. Cluttered and disheveled in appearance even when keen and focused. Rotten at remembering numbers.

I spent the better part of two decades trying to be more suitable to a wider audience. I am sure you know what I am talking about. Everyone does it. I just do it more poorly than most.

Yes, I was the one in a pulpit with pink hair, Frankenstein’s bride hair, wearing cowboy boots, beaded heels, or barefoot. Preaching about comic books, and love songs, and pastoral care as given by a good DJ. I taught atheists about Jesus, Christians about the Tao, and introverts about getting up and dancing.

But I was holding back. Trust me. I was holding WAY back.

I know that there are those who think I have just given up being a minister. I haven’t given up on me, given in to the power of orthodoxy over innovation, or given myself over to the sloth and illusionist thinking of popular culture. I am giving myself time.

We can change our minds, our appearance, our careers, our neighborhoods. We can change many a small ingredient of ourselves but we cannot change who we are. The trick is in knowing who we are in the first place so we do not waste our time trying to perfect that which was meant to be the way it is.

Someone thinks you are done. Someone has given up on you. Someone expects you to be a way that makes you miserable to fake being. Someone thinks you should gain/lose weight. Someone thinks you should work more/less. Someone thinks you need to speak up/shut up/get up/give up. Someone is wrong/right about you.

If that person who knows what needs to change is you, then the rest will fall in place. You don’t have to be conventional to know who you are but you do need self-knowledge to successfully change yourself. And there are just some parts of you that it is time to embrace.

Last time I checked - my postcard buddy still enjoyed getting my cards, even laughing when they come in clumps after a long dry spell. He knows me. I know him. I am still striving to be better at this postcard stuff. I have time.

So do you.


Brittany said...

Thanks for this was a much needed reminder! I'm working to change a lot of things in my life right now and after fits and starts I finally feel that this push for change is coming from the deepest part of me - to live the life I want to live because that it is what speaks to me. My path to living my life intentionally looks different than yours, but I am really thankful that those paths crossed and that I am still learning from you away from the pulpit.

Lara said...

I love your writing! And you're exactly who you should be. We all are. :-)

The Jotter said...

I have gotten some great private emails, Facebook comments, and other discussion on this one. It is uplifting to know our connections. Godspeed, BR!
And thank you, Lara.

irac60 said...

Can't remember numbers? There is a fix: find the right gene to mutate and you could acquire COLOR SYNETHESIA. Letters and numbers will appear in vivid colors even if the print is black and white. 666 in Hot Pink? SEX in rainbow hues? Just think of the possibilities! If this imaging fantasizing seems a little odd, I'm also drawn to a rogue minister with Frankenstein bride hair. I did read somewhere though that it's better than "upping your meds".

irac60 said...

For a woman of the cloth articulate in obscenities; a compulsion to brighten the pulpit with green cowboy boots and pink hair; you do sure enough lay on some heavy perceptions and rock-hard questions:

"When we try to change ourselves for someone else beyond our natural abilities for change, we are either left failing because we overreached or soulless with success of pretending to be what we are not."

This phenomenon is so pervasive it is almost a cultural meme. It seems to me that it was one of the first things about the local social structure to enter my youthful awareness-especially on Sunday mornings. It has been disheartening to witness this persona at various UU gatherings. Thankfully it was rare at the UUs but I bet you have seen more.

Not surprisingly, students of Eastern philosophy have had some words to say on this score:

Alan Watts; The Way of Zen:

"We have difficulty in communicating with each other unless we can identify ourselves in terms of ROLES-father, teacher, worker, artist, 'regular guy', sportsman, and so forth.-------A meeting of two strangers at a party is always somewhat embarrassing when the host has not identified their roles in introducing them, for neither knows what rules of conversation and action should be observed."

"Social conditioning fosters the identification of the mind with a fixed idea of itself as the means of self-control, and as a result man thinks of himself as the 'I'-the ego. Thereupon the mental center of gravity shifts from the spontaneous or original mind to the ego image. Once this has happened, the very center of our psychic life is identified with the self-cont
rolling mechanism. It then becomes almost impossible to see how 'I' can let go of myself. for I am precisely my habitual effort to hold onto myself. I find myself totally incapable of any mental action which is not intentional, affected, and insincere."